But first, let’s review some geography: oolongs in China are produced in two southern provinces—the Guangdong Province (no need to be ironic over the name, this is one of the most successful and prosperous Chinese provinces) and in the Fujian Province (where I live). These provinces are side by side, sharing similar climates.
Distinguishing Light Oolong Tea From Green Tea
First of all, we can consider the shape: light oolong leaves are always crumpled. They are repeatedly crushed, wrinkled and crushed again during the production process. A leaf of green tea, however, is almost always intact. Additionally, you will be able to distinguish light oolong from green tea based on the fragrance. Oolongs tend to have a spring-like fresh scent, reminiscent of lilacs. Green teas have also have a natural aroma that is grassy and “sharp”. You need to try a few light oolongs and then a few green teas. You will definitely catch this difference and start to distinguish them unmistakably. Once you’ve had your fair share of light oolongs and green teas, the distinctive characteristics of each become more apparent.
Light oolongs are often confused with green teas because they have an intense green color. The most well-known bright oolong is the legendary Teguanin. A unique tea with centuries of history, it’s large tea leaves have a so-called spherical twist to them. These are sonorous, strongly crumpled green nucleoli. Teguanin gives an amazing floral, spring-like aroma and has a delicate, recognizable taste. Teguanin infusion is transparent, often with a golden tint. Infusion of any light Oolong will always be transparent, leaving a yellow color to the mix, which can be attributed to the color of the leaf.
Compared to the light oolongs, the dark counterparts have very similar processing. The only difference is that during the final stage, the dark oolongs undergo a procedure of slow languishing (smoking) on charcoal. This procedure takes several hours. The end result: the tea becomes dark, granting the leaves a cognac color and a peculiar spice aroma
Dark oolongs display a so-called longitudinal twist of the leaf. Simply put, the sheet looks solid, elongated, and strongly crumpled. The most popular dark oolong are Feng Huang Tan Tsun, Dahunpao, Shuixian, Zhouguy.
Dark oolongs are sometimes confused with red teas. However, the outwardly sheets of red teas are much smaller than oolong leaves. Oolongs are large-leaf teas. The aroma of dark oolongs is spicy, saturated, and tart. Red teas, on the other hand, are known to smell light, with an almost chocolate scent. After tasting both, the differences are clear.
Production of Oolongs
The tea leaf is removed from the plantation and sent to a factory for processing. There, it is allowed to be ventilated for 4-6 hours, laid out in thin layers on a flat surface. In the spring, during the tea gathering season, these surfaces are covered with carpets made from fresh tea leaves. The sheet is then put in a dark and cool room overnight, allowing the leaf to pass through a stage of gentle fermentation.